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Monday, August 8th, 2022

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Struggling SAS averts further strike as pilots agree to new pay deal

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has managed to avert further damaging strike action as Norwegian, Danish and Swedish members of the pilots' unions have voted to accept a collective bargaining agreement that was reached last month.

In July the loss-making Scandinavian carrier had to cancel 3,700 flights during a financially disastrous 15-day strike which is estimated to have cost SAS over US$145 million during what would normally be one of the most profitable periods of the year. While the new deal involves lower wages and longer hours for pilots, SAS has agreed to rehire pilots that were laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, Dansk Metal, the union representing Danish pilots, said in a statement that pilots have been given a guarantee that SAS will not set up new subsidiaries on different terms than what has now been agreed.

However, the avoidance of further strike action does not mean that SAS is out of the woods where its future is concerned. The carrier has struggled to compete against other low-cost airlines and in addition to cutting costs, it needs to raise further capital to survive. While the Swedish government has rejected the company's plea for more cash, Denmark says it might inject fresh funds if SAS also finds support from private-sector investors. SAS filed for U.S. bankruptcy protection on the second day of the strike, so the new collective bargaining deal between the airline and Swedish, Danish and Norwegian unions will need approval by a U.S. court handling creditors' interests in the Chapter 11 process.

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American Airlines to invest in hydrogen-electric engine developer ZeroAvia

American Airlines has announced its investment in ZeroAvia, a leader in hydrogen-electric, zero-emission aviation. In addition to the investment, a memorandum of understanding provides American the opportunity to order up to 100 engines from ZeroAvia’s hydrogen-electric powertrain development programme. The engines are intended to power regional jet aircraft with zero emissions.

“Our investment in ZeroAvia’s emerging hydrogen-electric engine technology has the potential to play a key role in the future of sustainable aviation,” said Derek Kerr, American’s Chief Financial Officer. “We are excited to contribute to this industry development and look forward to exploring how these engines can support the future of our airline as we build American Airlines to thrive forever.”

ZeroAvia is working to achieve certain type certifications of its innovative propulsion technology that will pave the way for the engines to be incorporated into the regional jet market in the future. The ZA2000-RJ powertrain is anticipated to enable passengers to fly in zero-emission regional jets as early as the late 2020s.

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Willis Lease Finance reports second-quarter pre-tax income of US$11.0 million

Willis Lease Finance has reported second-quarter total revenues of US$78.1 million. For the three months ended June 30, 2022, aggregate lease rent and maintenance reserve revenues were US$60.9 million and spare parts and equipment sales were US$6.8 million. The company reported increased total revenues in the second-quarter when compared to the prior year period, primarily due to an increase in lease rent revenue and short-term maintenance revenue.

The company generated US$11.0 million of pre-tax income in the second quarter of 2022 compared to $-(1.9) million in the comparable quarter of 2021. The book value of lease assets the company owns directly or through its joint ventures, inclusive of its notes receivable and investment in sales-type leases, was US$2,352.4 million at June 30, 2022.

As of June 30, 2022, the company also managed 351 engines, aircraft and related equipment on behalf of other parties.

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Brussels Airlines improves half-year 2022 result by 38%

Brussels Airlines has closed its first semester of 2022 at -€89 million, an improvement of 38% compared to the previous year. The first months of the year were still impacted by the consequences of Omicron, while June was marked by four days of flight disruptions due to strike actions. Inflation and high fuel costs continue to influence the airline’s results, but thanks to its restructuring, the airline is set up with a competitive cost position to face the future.

In the first half of this year, Brussels Airlines welcomed 2.73 million passengers on board its flights. This is three times higher than the same period last year, when the COVID-pandemic and subsequent travel bans plummeted air travel demand.

​Brussels Airlines increased its revenue by €314 million or 228% year-on-year to €452 million in the first half year of 2022 (previous year: €138 million), thanks to expanded flight operations and higher yields. The revenues in the first semester of 2022 were still impacted by slow demand at the beginning of the year due to the Omicron wave. Later in June, the airline faced four days of flight plan disruptions due to a national manifestation and social actions. If not taking into account the strike days, June was an EBIT-positive month, in line with the estimations of Brussels Airlines’ restructuring plan.

​Operating expenses went up by a total of €282 million or 97% to €572 million (previous year: €290 million), due to higher volume and steep increases of costs.

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Falko outlines second-quarter 2022 portfolio activity

Falko Regional Aircraft (Falko), the asset manager and aircraft lessor focused solely on the regional aircraft sector, has provided a summary of its Q2 2022 market activity.

In Q2 2022, Falko added 23 aircraft to its portfolio during the quarter. Eight aircraft were sold and four aircraft were delivered on lease to customers in Europe.

Activity was focused on the turboprop sector and the ATR product in particular, with three ATR 72s being delivered to Loganair and Emerald Airlines. An Embraer E195 was also delivered to SAS Link.

As of June 30, 2022, and following the transaction with Chorus, Falko’s portfolio totalled 266 aircraft on lease to 42 customers worldwide. 

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Horizon Aircraft enters into binding agreement with Astro Aerospace for re-privatisation

Horizon Aircraft, an innovative leader in hybrid electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aerial vehicles, has entered into a binding agreement with its parent company, Astro Aerospace (Astro) and several of Astro’s key shareholders (the Purchasers) whereby Astro has agreed to sell 100% of the equity of Horizon to the Purchasers in exchange for certain Astro public securities and a fraction of the ownership of the newly privatized Horizon.

Brandon Robinson, CEO of Horizon Aircraft said: “This mutually beneficial transaction will allow Horizon Aircraft to accelerate development of our highly innovative Cavorite X-series eVTOL aircraft in the private sector with access to more flexible funding mechanisms. Retaining Astro as a key shareholder and partner moving forward represents natural progression of this programme that has seen tremendous success over this last year.”

Horizon Aircraft will continue with rigorous testing of its 50%-scale prototype and detailed design of a full-scale prototype as it pursues the next phases of the AFWERX HSVTOL challenge that could offer up to US$35 million in non-dilutive financing over the next three years.

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Stratos continues to grow its technical team

Stratos has announced the appointment of Ailish Woulfe as Technical Manager to further strengthen its servicing team in Shannon, Ireland. Woulfe brings ten years of technical experience from major lessor’s. Prior to joining Stratos, she spent three years as Technical Asset Manager for Avolon covering the Asia-Pacific region. She began her career at GECAS, supporting the technical department with a focus on maintenance analysis, freighter conversions, asset sales and transition management.

Michael O’Hurley, Head of Servicing of Stratos, said “We are delighted to have Ailish join our growing technical team which strengthens our offering to our clients. We now have eight aircraft design engineers and technicians at Stratos, which helps us to manage multiple transitions, freighter conversions and off-lease projects for our growing investor client base.”
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